Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Plain of Jars in Phonsavan

After a nightmare bus ride I won't even talk about here from Vientiane up north to the one main street town of Phonsavan, I checked into the biggest hotel in town, in which I think I had the entire third floor to myself, took a quick shower, downed a cup of coffee and hired a guide to see the darn jars before I passed out of exhaustion. Dating back to the Iron Age, there is not much that's definitively known about these jars, though scholars believe that the stone jars are associated with prehistoric burial practices. The jars scatter the countryside in clusters ranging from one or two to hundreds, and no one knows exactly how they were used as there is conflicting data in the little research that has been done. Local legends talk of giants who used the jars to store booze. Who's to say who is right?

Some of the roads were gravel, some were paved and one was this bumpy monster

Hand in hand with the jars are the much more recent remains of the intense bombings of the area by the US during the Secret War in the late 60's/early 70's, against Northern Vietnamese and Pathet Lao Communists. They say that 262 million bombs were dropped in the area, about 80 million of which did not explode and still litter the countryside. You can see giant craters in the ground where the bombs went off and you must visit the jars with a guide and follow cleared paths. There are organizations in place to comb through the area, locate any UXOs (unexploded ordinances), and disarm them, and enterprising craft shops in the villages melt down the aluminum from the disabled bombs and turn them into spoons and jewelry. Part of the money made from those sales go back to help families who lost someone or who suffered injuries caused by the UXOs, at least that's the hope.

Soon to be spoons

Lichen has formed along the lip of the jars like flowers on a tomb

Trees have grown from beneath the jars and offer support for the weary

This is not a lid, but a marker for a buried grave. See the little man on top?

Fuzzy caterpillar. Has nothing to do with anything except that they were ALL OVER!

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